Glossary On What is Acne?

‘Hope was a pathological part of puberty, like acne and surging hormones.’ - Jodi Picoult

Acne is indeed a part of puberty for a large number of people besides being one of the most common skin diseases. Acne is characterized by pimples on the face, neck, chest, shoulders, back and upper arms caused by clogging of pores in the skin due to excess sebum (oil) production.

The condition is not restricted to any particular age group though it is seen to affect teenagers and young people more commonly. It affects males and females equally; however the patterns of affection vary amongst the two. Young men tend to get more severe outbreaks whereas women tend to have an intermittent pattern (usually related to their menstrual cycles).

Whiteheads (Closed comedones): These appear as tiny whitish bumps on the skin; here the plugged follicle stays below the surface of the skin.

Blackheads (Open comedones): The appearance of these is dark or blackish bumps on the skin; here the plugged follicle has developed a melanin build-up (which gives the dark color)

Papules: These are small, firm pink bumps on the skin and can be tender to touch.

Pustules: Small round eruptions on the skin that contain pus and are painful.

Nodules / Cyst: These are larger eruptions that are usually deep seated within the skin, are severely inflamed and painful. Nodules last a long period running into several weeks or months and the contents usually harden and leave behind deep scars.

In majority of cases, the condition begins around the age of 10 to 13 years. Certain studies cite that almost 85 to 100% of people between 12 to 17 years of age have had at least occasional whiteheads, blackheads or pimples regardless of their race and ethnicity.